Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Ethics Reform Without Electoral Reform

Lots of talk on the Speakah's reform proposals. Lots of people applauded the Governor's reform proposals. I wasn't one of them, because it was mostly making already-illegal things more illegal. None of those ideas are bad, but if politicians aren't afraid to break rules now, what makes people think many pols still won't be afraid to break them in the future? People break rules all the time, regardless of the consequences. They don't think they'll be caught - or caught anytime soon. Simply put, you can't have ethics reform without reforming the electoral system and making government more transparent.

A formula for real reform, making government responsive to the people as well as more ethical:
  • Stiffer penalties for laws already on the books which are commonly broken +
  • Public financing option for elections +
  • Other electoral reform including instant runoff & same-day registration +
  • Lobbyist reform on dollars & time +
  • More transparency including posting on the internet:
    1. When and who all lobbyists meet
    2. What bills each elected leader proposes, votes for and/or signs.
    3. Public video of all floor votes and/or committee hearings (watch presently empty committee hearings suddenly become full).
This is a comprehensive view on ethics reform, because it ensures that politicians are accountable to their constituents. Just looking at ethics through the lense of law-and-order is a recipe for failure, because it's so hard to catch politicians in the act. However, it's not so hard for constituents to tell if an elected official isn't adequately representing their community or is favoring special interests -- citizens just don't have the tools necessary to effectively mount challenges in all but the most extreme cases. It shouldn't take a federal indictment to get someone out of office. That's why ethics reform can't come without electoral reform.


Peter Porcupine said...

Ryan - we HAD public financing of elections. The Legislature just wouldn't appropriate any money to fund it.

BTW - I worked for a GOP rep. who collected all the signatues, $5 donations, etc. - she just got screwws, because unlike Warren Tolman, she didn't have the money to go to court individually to enforce the law, which is why only Tolman got $3 million.

If we can't enforce the laws we have - why make more?

Ryan said...

I'd like to pass a second public financing law and dare the state house to overturn it twice.

john bonifaz said...

Right on, Ryan! I could not agree with you more both in your original post and in this comment re public financing. We must go to the fundamentals of this discussion and your post on electoral reform does that. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Ryan this was the best post I've ever seen on this blog. Other than the same day registration (if people are concerned about their government they can make time to register earlier)I couldn't agree more. But your ideas get at the heart of the dissatisfaction many people have felt over the years, the old boy croney network, lack of transparency. If a person were to run solely on this platform they would be the first one I've ever gone and held a sign for.

Ryan said...

Thanks, Anon.

The reason why I include same-day registration is because many don't know when the deadline hits. It's easy for it to sneak up on you. On top of that, the media hardly pays any attention to elections until the very, very end -- which means there could be a lot of voters closed out of the process.

Plus, it certainly could have made a huge impact in a situation like Wilkerson's, where she was indicted just days before the general election. In that sort of case, imo, a great sum of people who would normally not have been interested in the election would have wanted to have their voices heard.

Especially in urban areas, you get a lot of people who move every year or two. They may even be relatively reliable voters most elections, but could forget to re-register in time. The evidence is pretty clear: states that have same-day registration also have higher average voter turnouts. It's only a very small part of the way I'd reform ethics/elections, but I do think it should be part of it.

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